By Stefan Anderson
To return from a retirement to a 4-2 defeat to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern conference semifinals in 1995, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were looking for revenge.
“I think it was without question the biggest motivation coming that following season,” former Orlando Magic head coach Brian Hill said. “Michael Jordan played the whole season with an unbelievable will to win. There were eight to 10 games where he basically willed his teammates into winning games.
The vengeance they sought was a record setting 72-10 season solidifying the 95-96 Bulls as one of the greatest, if not the greatest team ever.
One game away from eclipsing Chicago’s record, the Golden State Warriors will have to beat the team provided their magic, the gritty Memphis Grizzlies.
After falling down 2-1 to the Grizzlies during the Western Conference semifinals last season, the Warriors magical season appeared to coming to end and the old adage of fast, jump shooting teams could never win a NBA championship.
As told by soon to be named back to back MVP, Stephen Curry during an interview with ESPN’s Zach Lowe in February the losses to Memphis motivated the Warriors to get back on track to where they were.
“It wasn’t clicking. We didn’t have our usual flow, as Coach Kerr would call it. For whatever reason, Memphis found a way to muck up the game. We had to shake it out, and get back to who were. We showed our resilience rolling off three straight, and doing the same thing against Cleveland.”
“That has made us such a more mature team going into this year — having gone through that.” said Curry.
The Bulls went on to sweep the Magic in the conference finals the following year en route to their first championship of their second three-peat.
Golden State has the same opportunity to turn motivation into history with their Wednesday night win over Memphis, while continuing to defying the odds set against them on how great of a team they too are one of the best teams we’ve ever witnessed.
The Magic will forever be etched in NBA history not only for Nick Anderson’s missed FT’s in the finals and his infamous “didn’t look like the old Michael Jordan,” and “No. 45 doesn’t explode like No. 23 used to”, but were responsible for assembling a top-five guard-big combo in Shaq and Penny.
Memphis might not be remembered in the latter years, but have been a maverick of their own, with their grit and grind style of play in today’s NBA.
But if the Grizzlies can find another way to “muck up” the game again, it will the brightest spot of their gloomy injury ridden season. Memphis will be amongst the New York Giants of 2007 and University of Wisconsin of 2015, keeping them in the history books as not only the team that helped to inspire the storming Warriors, but that stopped the possibility of 73-9.